Chicago elects gay black woman mayor and five avowed socialist aldermen
Lori Lightfoot waves to supporters at her election night party in Chicago on Tuesday. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

CHICAGO –  Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s overwhelming victory was a message by the city’s voters yesterday that they want an overhaul and makeover of City Hall and that they want to trash the entrenched political machine that has ruled the city for so long. The nation’s third largest city is now the largest American city ever to elect a black woman mayor.

Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, never held elective office until now. She won the election by besting Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who, herself, served many years on the City Council.

More than any candidate in recent times Lightfoot racked up support in every single section of the city. AP reported that she won in each of the city’s 50 wards. She had the support of Revolution Now, the progressive group founded by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

She will be sworn in on May 20 and on that day joins a group of seven other black women serving as mayors in large U.S. cities including Atlanta and New Orleans. After Jane Byrne, she becomes the second woman to serve as mayor of Chicago.

Lightfoot and Preckwinkle, also an African American, say they are working to heal some of the differences between them and some of the divisions in the progressive community which saw unions and other organizations divided in whom they supported. Preckwinkle was perceived by many voters as having too close a connection to the old political machine and Lightfoot was criticized for not being strong enough in her prosecution of police misconduct.

The other historical aspect of the elections is that avowed socialists won four additional seats on the City Council by the time polls closed yesterday. Many of the socialist aldermen are women of color.

Three aldermanic hopefuls backed by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America won seats in the runoffs last night. In the 20th Ward Jeanette Taylor, with 60 percent of the vote, grabbed the seat held by indicted Willie Cochran. In the 25th Ward, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, with 54 percent of the vote, took the seat long held by Danny Solis. Solis was the powerful chair of the city’s Zoning Commission. In the 40th Ward, Andre Vasquez defeated the nine-term incumbent Pat O’Connor with 54 percent of the vote.

As we went to press a fourth Democratic Socialists of America candidate, Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, was leading by 64 votes with all precincts reporting. The winner will be determined when all the absentee ballots are counted and a recount is conducted.

All of the new socialist aldermen will join Carlos-Ramirez-Rosa, a socialist incumbent in the 35th ward and newcomer Daniel LaSpata, another socialist incumbent. Both of them had won in the first-round elections in February. The results mean that in a 50-seat city council at least 10 percent are members of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America.

“As democratic socialists, we’re ready to build a Chicago for all of us, not just a wealthy few,” said Lucie Macias, one of two Chicago DSA co-chairs. “Our Chicago for All platform is based on three main planks: housing for all, sanctuary for all, and education for all. We’re excited to build a socialist caucus in city hall to carry out this agenda and fight for Chicago’s working class.”

The Chicago victories in the aldermanic races reflect a national trend of victories by DSA candidates. The most well-known, of course, was the victory in New York of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. DSA has already endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. Sanders carried the 1st, 25th, 33rd, 35th, and 40th wards in the 2016 Democratic primary in Chicago.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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